2nd round turns East upside down

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

A final look at global odds for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby…plus the latest shocking developments in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs, and previews of Friday’s postseason action in hoops and hockey. We’ll tell you the story and we’ll tell you “The Score” as we close out the week in VSiN City!

NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers come back even stronger in Game 2 to eviscerate the Raptors

To call Toronto “soft” after Game 2 of its Eastern Conference Finals series with Cleveland would be an insult to marshmallows. It might be the single softest “gut check” performance in NBA Playoff history. As you scan the box score, run your finger down Cleveland’s offensive numbers while thinking about how Toronto should have been bringing PEAK defensive intensity on its home court after losing the series opener on the same floor. 

Cleveland (plus 7) 128, Toronto 110

2-point Pct: Cleveland 67%, Toronto 63%

3-pointers: Cleveland 11/26, Toronto 12/30

Free Throws: Cleveland 17/23, Toronto 10/11

Rebounds: Cleveland 34, Toronto 35

Turnovers: Cleveland 3, Toronto 11

Pace: 90.8 (for the series, 90 and 90.8) 

With its season arguably on the line, the #1 seed in the East let Cleveland shoot 67% inside the arc, 42% on treys (the equivalent of 63% on two’s rounding down), while only forcing THREE turnovers! This after only forcing five turnovers back in Game 1. Was the Toronto defense even there?!

LeBron James shot 18 of 25 on two-pointers, continuing to attack the basket at will and drain fadeaways. He also dished out 14 assists because Toronto had to leave guys open to get in his way. Kevin Love, often relegated to a guy hanging out by the arc, was 9 of 15 on two-pointers. 

Cleveland scored 128 points in an extremely slow game. At 100 possessions per team, more standard for a regular season game, the final score would have been 141-121. That’s how bad Toronto’s defense was. 

Pre-series underdog Cleveland takes a 2-0 series lead with a pair of road shockers that beat the market by 7 and 25 points at the end of regulation. Game Three will be Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC. At press time late Thursday night, Cleveland was -4.5 with a total of 217. 

Given the standard value of three points for home court advantage, and the must-win nature of that game for Toronto…it’s clear that the market has now switched to seeing Cleveland as the superior neutral court team in this series. 

NBA Playoffs: Boston also makes it two straight for a pre-series underdog by beating Philadelphia

Wild game. Philadelphia bounced back about as strong as could be expected through the first 17 minutes of game action. Sixers were up 48-26 with 6:41 left in the second quarter, seemingly sending a message that they were ready to take care of business and re-establish their perceived superiority. 

Boston went on a 50-20 run!

From 76-68 Boston with 2:24 left in the third quarter, we had a heckuva game. High energy from both teams. Players on both sides wanting the ball and making shots (though, not Ben Simmons, who was just 0 of 4 in 31 minutes). Great crowd cheering on an underdog host that hadn’t been given much chance to advance at the start of the series. Let’s crunch the numbers…

Boston (plus 4) 108, Philadelphia 103

2-point Pct: Philadelphia 46%, Boston 48%

3-pointers: Philadelphia 13/33, Boston 15/36

Free Throws: Philadelphia 10/14, Boston 19/24

Rebounds: Philadelphia 49, Boston 41

Turnovers: Philadelphia 11, Boston 9

Pace: 93.4 (for the series, 96.1 and 93.4) 

Very similar to the first game actually. Boston “regressed” from 17 of 36 on treys to 15 of 36. Not much of a regression…which goes to show that if you give shooters open looks from long range, they can connect at this rate. You have to deny them open looks!

Philadelphia’s rebound edges were nine and eight in the first two games, with a two-turnover deficit in both. This was a battle because Philadelphia jumped from 5 of 26 on treys to 13 of 33. It was another Boston win because rainbow treys kept thrilling the leprechauns. 

Let’s accept for a moment that Boston is shooting a bit over its heads from outside. Yes, they can drain open looks. But, even with that…they’re not likely to sustain this kind of volume and percentage (16 makes per game at 44%). Celtics are still doing enough to win because of low turnover counts and an inside-out attack that draws fouls and gets some occasional layups. 

Game Three will be Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, with a starting time of 5 p.m. ET on ESPN. The early line is Philadelphia -9.5 with a total of 207.5. For now, the market still isn’t buying Boston as a team deserving of respect in Power Ratings.  

NBA Friday: We head West for a pair of Game 3s

Two more games on tap Friday. A quick recap of what’s happened so far in those. 

Golden State at New Orleans (8 p.m. ET. on ESPN, Golden State leads series 2-0)

Game 1: Golden State (-7/223) 123, New Orleans 101

Game 2: Golden State (-11/229) 121, New Orleans 116

Game 3: Golden State -4.5, total of 232

Many are marveling at the high Over/Under for Game 3, without marveling at the racehorse pace. The first game was a sprint by playoff standards with a pace factor of 104.3. Game 2 flew past that all the way to 110.5. 

Sharps know pace. They also know that New Orleans ran a lot more at home in the Portland series than on the road. 

Pace Factors At Portland: 97.5 and 95.5

Pace Factors At New Orleans: 101.5 and 100.4

Not likely to see a slowdown Friday…unless one team builds a big lead and the other decides to rest up for Sunday. Golden State did slow way down in the game they kinda/sorta tanked at San Antonio (87.9 in that one, with everything else at 93.6 or higher). 

Houston at Utah (10:30 p.m. ET. on ESPN, series tied 1-1)

Game 1: Houston (-11.5/207.5) 110, Utah 96

Game 2: Utah (plus 11.5/205.5) 116, Houston 108

Game 3: Houston -3.5, total of 208.5

This is where we find out if Houston has an extra defensive gear for “backs-to-the-wall” basketball. Or, if the Rockets are just like Toronto…a #1 seed that got so used to outscoring inferior opponents that it never learned how to play angry. 

Utah swept all three home games vs. Oklahoma City. Amazing that the second round pre-series favorites outside of Golden State are 1-5 straight up so far. 

NBA Playoffs: Updating our estimated “market” Power Ratings

We’ve made it a point to update these every Friday so you can think about them over the weekend. It’s clear that “the market” hasn’t made very good reads in three of the four matchups. It adjusted in Cleveland/Toronto, as we mentioned above. Not so much yet elsewhere. Assuming about three points for home court advantage, we get this scale in an on-the-fly snapshot. 

91: Golden State 

90: Houston

85: Philadelphia

84: Cleveland  

83: Toronto, New Orleans, Utah (without Rubio)

79: Boston (shorthanded with injuries)

We lifted both Golden State and Houston a point…it’s either that or knocking New Orleans and Utah down to 82. That doesn’t make sense given their level of play in the first round, and the fact that both covered Game 2s on the road. The market has more air in the balloon than should be there, at least based on the most recent results. 

Philadelphia being six rungs higher than Boston matches point spreads in Games 2 and 3, but obviously not the feel of the series so far. Will form return the rest of the way? Or, is Philadelphia an 83 that faked its way to a higher number by bullying bad teams and outclassing overmatched Miami? Does Boston have a “floor” of 82 with this head coach, and players who enthusiastically execute his game plan? 

Fun to watch the market struggle to capture dynamics that are evolving before our eyes. 

Kentucky Derby: Mendelssohn pulls even with Justify at many global shops as betting comes down the stretch 

One last look for us at offshore odds for Saturday’s “Run for the Roses.” 

1…Firenze Fire (66/1)

2…Free Drop Billy (40/1)

3…Promises Fulfilled (50/1)

4…Flameaway (50/1)

5…Audible (6/1 as third favorite)

6…Good Magic (10/1)

7…Justify (7/2 or 4/1 current favorite)

8…Lone Sailor (50/1)

9…Hofburg (16/1)

10…My Boy Jack (33/1)

11…Bolt D’Oro (10/1)

12…Enticed (33/1)

13…Bravado (50/1)

14…Mendelssohn (7/2 or 4/1 as co-favorite)

15…Instilled Regard (50/1)

16…Magnum Moon (8/1)

17…Solomini (25/1)

18…Vino Rosso (16/1)

19…Noble Indy (25/1)

20…Combatant (50/1)

21…Blended Citizen (only in the field with a scratch above) (66/1)

You can click on this link to oddschecker for up-to-the-minute numbers at the time you’re reading. Since the prior time we checked, Mendelssohn have moved into a virtual dead heat with Justify depending on the locale. Plenty can happen between now and race time. Be sure you check out our live programming Friday and Saturday for all the latest developments. Ron Flatter will be reporting live from Lexington. 

Also, you can click here for Ron’s Thursday article on Mendelssohn, and here for the latest podcasts from Ron and his expert guests

Still time to purchase our the most comprehensive Kentucky Derby preview you’ll find anywhere. Just $19.99 for “Inside the Derby,” a joint effort from VSiN and our friends at horse racing TV network TVG. Pay $39.99 for the full Triple Crown (a 33% savings!). 

If you forgot to DVR our 30-minute preview on TVG Friday morning, or forgot to set your alarm to watch…you can take care of that on the rebroadcast Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. ET, 4:30 a.m. in Las Vegas.

NHL Playoffs: Pittsburgh and Nashville rally to force 2-2 series ties 

Last year’s Stanley Cup finalists were in must-win situations Thursday. Both responded. 

Pittsburgh (-180) 3, Washington 1 

Shots: Washington 21, Pittsburgh 24

Power Plays: Washington 1/3, Pittsburgh 2/4

Anther very tightly played game in this series. Shot counts were 22-all in the prior meeting. No other postseason matchup this year has seen such low shot counts. Pittsburgh held Washington’s Alex Ovechkin without a shot on goal for just the third playoff game in his career. Was just a 2-1 game on home ice for the Penguins until a late empty-netter. 

Game 5 will be Saturday in Washington at 7 p.m. ET on NBC. Remember that Pittsburgh was the pre-series favorite here even though Washington had home ice advantage. We’re back on serve for a best-two-of-three. 

Winnipeg (-145) 2, Nashville 1 

Shots: Nashville 29, Winnipeg 33

Power Plays: Nashville 1/2, Winnipeg 1/2

Not as dramatic as the final score makes it sound. Winnipeg’s goal came on a power play in the final minute. Couldn’t get the equalizer in the final 52 seconds. 

Game Five will be Saturday night in Nashville at 9:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network. This is also a best-two-of-three, with a pair of teams capable of playing at a very high level. 

Two more games on tap Friday night…

Tampa Bay at Boston (7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports, TB leads series 2-1)

Game 1: Boston (plus 150/6) 6, Tampa Bay 2 (Shots: TB 36-24)

Game 2: Tampa Bay (-175/5.5) 4, Boston 2 (Shots: TB 31-20)

Game 3: Tampa Bay (plus 140, 6) 4, Boston 1 (Shots: TB 37-29)

Game 4: Boston -150, total of 6

Obviously a must-win spot for the Bruins, down 2-1 with the next outing down in Florida. Tampa Bay has dominated flow of play to this point, with a 31-shot advantage through three games. The markets have Boston priced at a premium. 

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose (10 p.m. ET on NBC Sports, series tied 2-2)

Game 1: Vegas (-145/5.5) 7, San Jose 0 (Shots: Vegas 34-33)

Game 2: San Jose (plus 160/5.5) 4, Vegas 3 in OT (Shots: SJ 47-29)

Game 3: Vegas (plus 110/5.5) 4, San Jose 3 in OT (Shots: SJ 42-33)

Game 4: San Jose (-130/5.5) 4, Vegas 0 (Shots: even at 34)

Game 5: Vegas -150, total of 5.5

The most important home playoff game in the short history of the Vegas Golden Knights will have the T-Mobile Arena rocking. Is the city ready for this? VGK has had no trouble rising to the occasion thus far. Like Boston, Vegas is laying about -150 on home ice.  

MLB: Yanks make it three-of-four in huge Houston series

Instead of cooling off, the New York Yankees continued their recent rampage with another road win in Houston. The Bronx Bombers are now 12-1 their last 13 games. Here’s a quick recap of the series. 

Monday: Houston 2, NYY 1 (10-7 in total bases plus walks)

Tuesday: NYY 4, Houston 0 (11-8 in total bases plus walks)

Wednesday: NYY 4, Houston 0 (20-7 in total bases plus walks)

Thursday: NYY 6, Houston 5 (13-12 in total bases plus walks)

Thursday brought the only Over of the series. But it wasn’t really an offensive explosion. Fortunate clustering for the Yankees on a double, seven singles and four walks. Houston only managed one homer and eight singles with no walks. Aroldis Chapman got his seventh save with three ninth inning strikeouts. 

New York moves to 21-10, and only trails Boston by a game in the AL East after the Red Sox lost Thursday night at Texas. Houston drops to 20-13, in a virtual tie in the AL West with the Los Angeles Angels who unloaded on Baltimore late Thursday. 

VSIN News: VSiN to provide afternoon updates on Chicago’s top sports radio station “670 The Score” 

VSiN and “670 The Score” announced Thursday that VSiN will provide “Score Action Updates” daily during the “McNeil and Parkins” show starring Dan McNeil and Danny Parkins beginning Friday May 4 (today!).

The updates will focus on sports betting and market analysis specific to Chicagoland sports teams. “670 The Score” is the official radio outlet of the Cubs in Major League Baseball, and the Bulls in the NBA.  

Details are available here and here. You can listen online at the station’s website by clicking here

Enjoy the Kentucky Derby. Have a great weekend. See you Monday!

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